The Thunder’s rookie class appears to be off to a fast start after two solid Summer League games. Although Nikola Topic won’t be taking the court next season, both Dillon Jones and Ajay Mitchell can fill the void. 

Jones was selected in the first round, and Mitchell in the early second after the Thunder traded up to draft him. Oklahoma City had to trade up for both players, meaning management had specifically targeted the duo as quality NBA players. It was clear on draft night that Sam Presti and company wanted to walk away with both Jones and Mitchell.

After two Summer League games, the talent is clear. Both Jones and Mitchell have displayed an innate ability to score and get others involved. The defensive potential is there, too. Mitchell has racked up the steals and Jones is a very physical defender. It’s just summer league, sure, but the early returns have been promising.

As Oklahoma City heads into a new season with hefty expectations, there’s actually a real chance one of the two rookies will have to play real minutes. 

The Thunder was the luckiest team in the NBA last season in terms of injury luck, as no starter missed real time other than a few games here and there. The team was dealt a hand of perfect health. That’s rarely ever the case in the NBA. If a guard goes down, one of Jones or Mitchell could be called on to step up.

It was also clear in the playoffs that the Thunder needed another primary ball handler and creator off the bench. When Jalen Williams went cold, the offense without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander wasn’t pretty. In a perfect world, Cason Wallace grows into that role. But if he’s still a spot-up shooter and an elite defender, Jones or Mitchell might be more comfortable in an on-ball role.

It’s crucial that one of the two rookies starts to separate from the rest of the pack and prove they can make an impact. The Thunder will likely have to rely on them in some capacity this season.

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